Washington D.C.House Armed Services Committee Ranking Member Adam Smith made the following opening statement at today’s hearing on operational contracting support:

“I wish to thank our witnesses for appearing today.  The American way of conducting military operations has always relied upon support derived from contracted goods and services.  This reliance has been greatly magnified in scope, scale, complexity, duration, and tempo by recent contingency operations in Afghanistan and Iraq. 

“In a constantly evolving security environment, it is imperative that the Department of Defense maintain the operational flexibility to respond to threats and to routinely perform a wide variety of critical missions.  Operational contract support is vital to enabling this needed flexibility.  Therefore, operational contract support is of strategic importance to national security.  We cannot successfully execute wartime, humanitarian, or disaster relief operations without it.

Proficient contractual performance, especially in the context of a contingency operation, depends upon effective command and control, institutional support, careful plans and preparation, sufficient resourcing, qualified contracting personnel with specialized skill sets, reliable data, and thorough oversight.  This committee considers these factors, and the lessons learned from recent contingency operations, to be items of special interest because they are fundamental to effective operational contract support now and in the future.  The Department has been less than proficient in these areas over the past decade, as evidenced by tragic contractor deaths and the squandering of billions of taxpayer dollars both in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“The Department also recognizes the importance of operational contract support and that, to some degree, an internal cultural shift is required to optimize contractual support for future operational needs.  I commend the Department’s willingness to embrace lessons learned, and I will be encouraged by demonstrated progress in preparing and implementing new and more efficient plans and policies to improve operational contract support going forward.  These efforts will become increasingly significant as budgetary resources become more constrained.  The Department should continue to: sharpen its strategic and operational planning by factoring for potential contracting requirements; empower its contracting work force with adequate resources, education, and training; develop useful and integrated contract data management systems; and improve oversight of contractor performance.  I look forward to working closely with the Department in furthering these and other related goals.

“Thank you, Mr. Chairman, for holding this important hearing.  I thank the witnesses for testifying here today.”